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World: Advocates fear US weighing climate vs. human rights on China

Lawmakers Consider Climate Change Amid Backdrop of Hurricanes, Heat Waves

  Lawmakers Consider Climate Change Amid Backdrop of Hurricanes, Heat Waves More Americans are paying attention as the climate crisis is coming into sharper focus amid a chaotic summer of disasters that pummeled every inch of the country. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans reside in a county that was hit by extreme weather over the summer, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. "(Climate change) is at the center of national political debates like it hasn't in the past," says Matto Mildenberger, a political science professor specializing in environmental politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "This is an attention to climate that we wouldn't have seen five to 10 years ago.

U.S. envoy John Kerry’s diplomatic quest to stave off the worst scenarios of global warming is meeting resistance from China, the world's biggest climate polluter, which is adamant that the United States ease confrontation over other matters if it wants Beijing to speed up its climate efforts.

In this Sept. 13, 2021 photo, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry listens to a speech at the launch of Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue (CAFMD) under India-US Agenda 2030 Partnership in New Delhi, India. Kerry’s quest to stave off the worst scenarios of global warming is meeting resistance from China, the world's biggest climate polluter, which is adamant that the United States ease confrontation over other matters if it wants Beijing to speed up its climate efforts. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup): US China Climate Bargaining © Provided by Associated Press US China Climate Bargaining

Rights advocates and Republican lawmakers say they see signs, including softer language and talk of heated internal debate among Biden administration officials, that China’s pressure is leading the United States to back off on criticism of China’s mass detentions, forced sterilization and other abuses of its predominantly Muslim Uyghur minority in the Xinjiang region.

The budget bill could be the last hope for climate action from Congress

  The budget bill could be the last hope for climate action from Congress After decades of inaction from the United States on climate, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats face a reckoning. © Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg/Getty Images Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi outside the Capitol in June. Biden has big climate ambitions, vowing in April to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. The world is watching closely to see whether the US will deliver on that promise, as the President's climate envoy, John Kerry, prepares to meet with global leaders in November for the United Nations climate summit.

FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2021, file photo, a woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus sits near a screen showing China and U.S. flags as she listens to a speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum on bringing China-U.S. relations back to the right track, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry came to China seeking to press the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases to do more in the global effort to hold down the rise in temperature. What he got was renewed demands for Washington to change its stance toward China on a host of other issues from human rights to Taiwan. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2021, file photo, a woman wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus sits near a screen showing China and U.S. flags as she listens to a speech by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum on bringing China-U.S. relations back to the right track, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Beijing. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry came to China seeking to press the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases to do more in the global effort to hold down the rise in temperature. What he got was renewed demands for Washington to change its stance toward China on a host of other issues from human rights to Taiwan. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File)

But the White House took a step this past week that could further deepen the U.S.-China divide, forming a security alliance with Britain and Australia that will mean a greater sharing of defense capabilities, including helping equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Biden, world leaders push climate action, vow methane cuts

  Biden, world leaders push climate action, vow methane cuts WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden tried on Friday to hammer out the world's next steps against rapidly worsening climate change with a small group of other global leaders and announced a new U.S.-European pledge to cut climate-wrecking methane leaks. Ever-grimmer findings from scientists this year that the world is nearing the point where the level of climate damage from burning oil, gas and coal becomes catastrophic and irreversible “represent a code red for humanity,” Biden said at the session's outset.

President Joe Biden came out strong from the start of his presidency with sanctions over China's abuse of the Uyghurs, and his administration this spring called it genocide. But the U.S. desire for fast climate progress versus China's desire that the U.S. back off on issues such as human rights and religious freedom is creating conflict between two top Biden goals: steering the world away from the climate abyss and tempering China’s rising influence.

FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2021, file photo provided by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a meeting with Yang Jiechi, director of China's Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, via video link in Tianjin, China. Kerry came to China seeking to press the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases to do more in the global effort to hold down the rise in temperature. What he got was renewed demands for Washington to change its stance toward China on a host of other issues from human rights to Taiwan. (U.S. Department of State via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Sept. 2, 2021, file photo provided by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a meeting with Yang Jiechi, director of China's Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, via video link in Tianjin, China. Kerry came to China seeking to press the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases to do more in the global effort to hold down the rise in temperature. What he got was renewed demands for Washington to change its stance toward China on a host of other issues from human rights to Taiwan. (U.S. Department of State via AP, File)

It would be “disastrous in the long term for the United States government to backtrack, tone down, let the Chinese manipulate the issue," said Nury Turkel, a Uyghur advocate and the vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an advisory panel that makes policy recommendations to the White House and Congress.

Democrats May Be on the Verge of Climate Disaster

  Democrats May Be on the Verge of Climate Disaster The party’s climate measures suddenly face a tough battle in Congress.I’m starting to become concerned about President Joe Biden’s ability to pass a climate bill. They’re speaking sotto voce, but still: In the past few days, Democrats on the party’s left and right flanks have started to hint that, well, in some circumstances, given some contingencies, they might prefer no bill to a negotiated compromise with the rival flank.

Chinese leaders repeatedly linked the issue of climate change and their complaints over perceived U.S. confrontation on human rights and other issues during Kerry's most recent China trip this month, Kerry told reporters in a call.

The Chinese complained specifically about sanctions the administration has put on China's globally dominant solar panel industry, which the U.S. and rights groups say runs partly on the forced labor of imprisoned Uyghurs.

"My response to them was, 'Hey, look, climate is not ideological, it’s not partisan, it’s not a geostrategic weapon or tool, and it’s certainly not, you know, day-to-day politics,’'' said Kerry. He told reporters in a call after the talks that he could only relay China's complaints about the sanctions to Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

China in 2019 pumped out 27% of climate-eroding fossil fuel fumes, more than the rest of the developed world combined. T he United States is the second-worst offender, at 11%.

That makes China central to the world's fast-evaporating hopes of cutting fumes from use of petroleum and coal before catastrophic climate change becomes inevitable and irreversible.

COP26: How the UN climate conference works, and what leaders hope to achieve

  COP26: How the UN climate conference works, and what leaders hope to achieve The COP26 international climate talks in Glasgow this November couldn't come at a more crucial time. © Stefan Rousseau/PA Images/Getty Images Children to gather at Parliament Square in London in early September to read their Letters to the Earth, ahead of the COP26 conference in Glasgow. A state-of-the-science report published by the UN in August showed that the world is warming faster than scientists previously thought, and that slashing greenhouse gas emissions by at least half this decade is crucial to staving off the more catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis.

FILE - In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 file photo, smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A report released on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 by Climate Action Tracker says only one nation, tiny The Gambia in Africa, has plans in line with limiting warming to the agreed upon goal set by the 2015 Paris agreement. Top carbon emitting nation China and third highest carbon polluting nation India are what the report calls “highly insufficient” or more in line with 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Wednesday, April 21, 2021 file photo, smoke and steam rise from towers at the coal-fired Urumqi Thermal Power Plant in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. A report released on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021 by Climate Action Tracker says only one nation, tiny The Gambia in Africa, has plans in line with limiting warming to the agreed upon goal set by the 2015 Paris agreement. Top carbon emitting nation China and third highest carbon polluting nation India are what the report calls “highly insufficient” or more in line with 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming since pre-industrial times. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Kerry, the former secretary of state and Biden's global climate envoy, has led repeated calls, online meetings and visits to Chinese officials before November's U.N. climate summit in Scotland. He has urged the Chinese to move faster on steps such as cutting their building, financing and use of dirty-burning coal-fired power plants.

In this photo provided by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a meeting with Yang Jiechi, Director of China's Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs via video link in Tianjin, China, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (U.S. Department of State via AP) © Provided by Associated Press In this photo provided by the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry attends a meeting with Yang Jiechi, Director of China's Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs via video link in Tianjin, China, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. (U.S. Department of State via AP)

He and others see that summit as a last chance to make significant emissions cuts in time. Climate efforts will also be a theme of leaders at the U.N. General Assembly this coming week.

In German election, hunger strikers seek climate promises

  In German election, hunger strikers seek climate promises BERLIN (AP) — After three-and-a-half weeks on a hunger strike, Henning Jeschke is frail and gaunt, but determined to go on, still hoping to pressure the three candidates for chancellor of Germany into meeting him for a debate about the climate crisis ahead of Sunday’s general election. For the first time in Germany, climate change is perhaps the most dominant issue in an election campaign, especially for young voters. It's at the center ofFor the first time in Germany, climate change is perhaps the most dominant issue in an election campaign, especially for young voters. It's at the center of televised debates among candidates, and five of the six main parties offer plans with varying degrees of detail for slowing global warming.

China under President Xi Jinping has said it will hit peak climate pollution by the end of this decade and then make China climate pollution neutral by 2060, a decade later than the U.S. and other countries have pledged.

As China asserts its economic influence and territorial claims, and tension and competition rise with the United States, Xi and his officials have shown no desire to be seen as following the U.S. line on climate or anything else.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the U.S. diplomat in a video meeting on Kerry's latest China trip that “China-U.S. cooperation on climate change cannot be divorced from the overall situation of China-U.S. relations.''

The U.S. should “take positive actions to bring China-U.S. relations back on track,” Wang added, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

“The Chinese believe that the U.S. needs cooperation from China more than China needs the United States,” and like others see the United States as weaker now than in the past, said Bonnie Glaser, an expert on Asia and Asia security matters at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

U.S. global climate objectives in that context are another “point of leverage, and they are trying to use that to get the United States to back off some policies they find particularly objectionable,” including U.S. pressure on human rights, Glaser said.

Kerry has said no country is as committed to human rights as the United States and that his climate discussions with China's leaders have been constructive.

But there's talk China's pressure on the human rights-climate front is having effect.

Two Climate Activists on Hunger Strike Will Now Refuse Liquids Until Politician Meets Them

  Two Climate Activists on Hunger Strike Will Now Refuse Liquids Until Politician Meets Them "We can still turn this around," Swedish activist Greta Thunberg told a crowd in Berlin. "We demand change, and we are the change."Among those protesting strong action against climate change are two activists who are on a hunger strike until politicians agree to make public comments on climate policy. Henning Jeschke, 21, has been fasting since August 30. He is now joined by Lea Bonasera. The pair vowed to escalate their strike and begin refusing liquids, the AP reported.

An account circulating in China policy and human rights circles in Washington claimed Kerry had a forceful debate with other administration officials on the matter before his most recent China trip. Some claim administration influence in a bipartisan bill on Uyghur forced labor that stalled in the House after easily passing the Senate.

The State Department declined comment on the two matters.

Uyghur and human rights advocates say they believe administration officials are softening their tone on social media and in other public comments on China and human rights.

They point to a White House statement on a call between Xi and Biden on Sept. 9 that made no mention of human rights.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the United States continues trying to make progress on areas of both shared interest and mutual disputes with China.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is the main author of the Uyghur forced labor bill, said in a statement that administration officials' “single-minded focus on climate led them to downplay the genocide in Xinjiang."

People “working to end the genocide are horrified at what we observe" in the administration, said Julie Millsap of the Campaign for Uyghurs advocacy group. No one with knowledge of China would expect a one-off "dialogue using human rights issues as leverage for climate change is going to work," she said.

The standoff is an agonizing one for climate advocates.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, hesitated when asked about the matter. She wouldn’t trade human rights for emission cuts, she said, but “there is a way to do both.”

Asked how, Clarkson said, “I don’t tell John Kerry how to do his job. But of course, it’s important we hang on to the fundamental principles.”

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Associated Press writers Seth Borenstein and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

'We've got to speed it up': US climate negotiator John Kerry discusses climate talks .
Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry says all countries need to speed up their efforts to reduce emissions and limit the impacts of climate change. Kerry said Mother Nature "did a hell of a job whipping up enthusiasm to get something done" after the extreme events and record-high temperatures around the world this past year and said leaders are starting to feel the anticipation for the upcoming COP26 summit where countries will re-examine what they need to do to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees Celsius.

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